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Care after death

What to expect after a loved one passes away

Cultural sensitivity warning: Please be advised that this website contains material that may be considered sensitive in nature and may contain images of people who have passed away.

Whether it’s expected or unexpected, the time following the death of a loved one can be overwhelming, difficult, and sometimes confusing. Any death of someone close to you is devastating, we have put together some resources to help you navigate through this difficult time.

When someone dies there are some practical things that need to be looked after and consideration points for the family and/or next of kin.

We provide public sector health care in hospital and community settings across the Gold Coast for all major adult specialties, paediatrics (children) and perinatal / neonatal (babies).

Below you will find information that is generic for adults and paediatrics. Specific information relevant for perinatal can be found within the drop-down bar.

What happens after a loved one dies in a Gold Coast Health facility?

When a patient dies in a Gold Coast Health facility, their treating team will speak with the next of kin and arrange the appropriate documentation dependent on the circumstances surrounding the death.

Families will be given the opportunity to spend time with their loved one where possible. After discussions with the family/next of kin, the patient is transferred to the mortuary under the guidance of the mortuary staff ensuring respectful and consistent principles of patient centered care. We must notify the coroner if a death is of unnatural causes or unknown, and sometimes an investigation may be necessary. Sometimes additional agencies will be consulted such as Queensland Police Service, Department of Child Safety or Family Law Court. You will be kept up to date by the hospital team.

Your loved one may remain at the hospital mortuary until you or the next of kin have chosen a funeral director who will help to plan the funeral or service, and plans are made to move them to the funeral home. It is the family’s responsibility to make sure hospital staff are aware of any end-of-life rituals, such as what needs to happen to your loved one in preparation for body/organ donation, burial, or cremation, so that arrangements can be made before your loved one is transferred.

The staff in our mortuary team will speak with the funeral director to determine when your loved one will be ready to be released and transferred to the funeral home. Please see ‘funeral arrangements’ below for more information.

Visiting a person who has died

Some people find it helpful to see a person after they have died, this is called a viewing. After a death, family are given the opportunity to spend as much time as possible with their loved one. This can be extended to parents, grandparents, siblings, and significant other family members.

Once your loved one has left the hospital unit, we recommend arranging viewings with the preferred funeral provider where possible, to ensure a supportive, and pleasant environment. We understand that viewings in the funeral home may not always be possible and that sometimes additional viewings are necessary, however, they are limited in the hospital setting and there are certain criteria.

Please talk to the treating team and social worker assigned to your loved one to discuss arrangements.

Spiritual and cultural care support

Gold Coast Health acknowledges the different cultural requirements and religious beliefs for each patient and endeavor to observe and honour these wishes of the deceased and their family and friends.

It is recognised that in providing spiritual care, team members bring unique knowledge, skills, and perspectives to assist patients and families while they are in hospital.

Our Gold Coast Health Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison Officers act as a cultural link between health professionals, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, and their families. To contact their service please phone 07 5687 3049 or email indigenous_mobhlo@health.qld.gov.au

Spiritual Carers and Chaplains offer spiritual care to patients and their families of all faiths offering compassionate, sensitive, and respectful care. 

For more information on spiritual care support please see Spiritual Care on the Gold Coast Health website.

Organ donation

Donating organs and tissue for transplantation can save people’s lives. Everyone over the age of 16 can register to donate their organs and tissues. It is important to know and understand your loved ones wishes about organ donation and how donations work. We have a donation specialist coordinator who will provide the family with education on the process, assist in completing any documentation and discuss follow-up and ongoing support that is available through Donate Life.

Organ donation for children

Some parents will choose to donate their child’s organs. The decision to donate a child’s organs is very personal. Parents and carers are encouraged to discuss this with their treating team and social work. 

Body donation / bequests

The generous act of body donation is central to the delivery of practical opportunities to study the human body in a controlled educational environment. By making this personal gift, donors make a vital contribution to training the next generation of doctors, scientists, and health professionals.

There is no single register for body donation with several universities and research organisations across Australia that you can donate your body and certain tissues to. 

The family/next of kin must contact the institute the person registered with during life, to notify them of the death within 48 hours so the body can be collected within the timeframes required for body donations. Families are unable to follow this process if the patient has not registered during life or the registration was with an institution outside the state of QLD.

If your loved one has registered their wish to donate their body to a respective university, there are some guidelines in place. These may differ dependent on which institution they are registered.

For more information, please see the family and friends’ brochures from the universities registered to be part of the body donation program and speak with the social worker involved in your loved one’s care. 

Griffith University, School of Anatomy – Body Donation Program

2395046_Body Donation Booklet.pdf (griffith.edu.au)

Phone: 07 5678 7700 
Email: sch-anatomy@griffith.edu.au 
After hours enquiries can be directed to Somerville Funerals Phone 07 55311722

University of Queensland, School of Biomedical Sciences

Body Donor Program - School of Biomedical Sciences – University of Queensland (uq.edu.au)

Phone: 07 3365 2702
Email: bodydonor@uq.edu.au

Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Health and Biomedical Innovation

Body donation at QUT

Phone: 07 3138 6944
Email: bodybequestofficer@qut.edu.au

Funeral arrangements

Remember, while you need to contact a funeral director to arrange a burial or cremation, you do not need to have a formal funeral service. A funeral director can also help to arrange a funeral service and cremation/burial in line with faith group leaders. They will also discuss things like; music, decorations, flowers or symbols of the loved one’s life, cultural, religious customs and practices and returning the loved one to country.

You can find a local funeral director by searching the Australian Funeral Directors Association

Managing affairs after a death

There are some practical things that families and next of kin must take care of after a death. Use this checklist as a helpful reminder of what needs to be done next. The checklist outlines tasks and people you may need to contact after a friend or family member has died. This includes places like Centrelink or Medicare, banks, and network providers, as well as other tasks like closing social media accounts and cancelling memberships or subscriptions.

Grief counselling and support

Dealing with death is difficult and everybody grieves in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and no timeline on how long you will be grieving for. You may be able to deal with your grief with the help of family and friends, or you may need some extra help. Regardless, it is important that you find what you need and give yourself time to heal.

Read more about coping with grief and find services that offer help and support.

There are also resources available on how to talk about death with children and helping children cope when someone dies.

Remembering your loved ones

There are several memory and legacy making activities and rituals both internal to the hospital and through external agencies that help families and friends process the loss of a loved one. These can include (but are not limited to) memory boxes, family activities, handprints and fingerprints, professional photography, and jewellery creation.

Additionally, parents/carers can be included in providing care to their child after they have passed away such as washing and dressing them. Memory making can assist in validating the life and death of a child and can help the parents and family process their tremendous loss.

Please speak with the health professional team at the hospital if you would like more detail.

Honouring the lives of our patients

We host several events to acknowledge the passing of your loved ones who have been cared for or died at a Gold Coast Health facility.

Children’s memory day – An annual Memory Day to remember children who have died at or who have been cared for at our health service. All parents who have had a child who died are personally invited to the first service after the death. After that, there is an open invitation to return annually or less frequently as desired. Details are available through the Social Work team GCHChildrensMemoryDay@health.qld.gov.au

Wave of light – Wave of light is an annual international event where people around the world light a candle in memory of the baby or babies they have lost. The Perinatal Loss Coordinator and Maternal Fetal Medicine team hold an exclusive ceremony in October and invite families touched by the loss of a baby within that year to join them in honouring and remembering their baby and families from the community. For more information, please contact: perinatallosscoordinator@health.qld.gov.au

Kidney Memorial Day – The Renal Services team host an annual Memorial Day to unite and remember loved ones who were cared for by the Kidney health care team. It’s an opportunity to remember patients lost and for loved ones to return and share their thoughts and reflections. The registered next of kin will receive a formal invitation to the Memorial Day after the death. For more information and enquiries please email GCH_CKD_Service@health.qld.gov.au

Palliative Care – The Palliative Care team pay respects to families who had a loved one pass away on the Specialist Palliative Care inpatient ward and contact families through written correspondence within the year following the patients passing. Where possible, they aim to hold an in-person event with the families of patients who were cared for by the Specialist Palliative Care team.

Perinatal and Neonatal

Experiencing the loss of a baby is a significant tragedy and distressing regardless of the gestation when it happens. The team at Gold Coast Health express our sincerest sympathies to you and your family.

The Perinatal Loss Service is available to navigate and support you through this difficult time. The team comprises of a Perinatal Loss Coordinator, Obstetricians, Midwives, Social Work and pathology and mortuary staff. The Perinatal Loss Coordinator role is to provide bereavement support and information as well as coordinate your care prior to and during admission. Further bereavement support is provided after discharge by phone or home visit.

More information: Coping with stillbirth.

Support
  • Lifeline—phone 13 11 14 for free counselling and support (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Lifeline also provides information about other grief counselling services.
  • 13 HEALTH—call 13 43 25 84 for general health information and referrals (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • The Compassionate Friends, Queensland— peer support for parents, siblings and grandparents after the death of a child.  Call 1300 064 068 to speak with someone else who has experienced child loss and understands.
  • Sands—if you have suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death, call 1300 072 637 to speak to someone who understands.
  • Beyondblue—call 1300 224 636 if you are feeling depressed and want to talk to a trained professional about your problems (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • Parentline—phone 1300 301 300 for counselling and support for parents (8am–10pm, 7 days a week).
  • Kids Help Line—if you are aged 5–25, call 1800 551 800 for free counselling (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • MensLine Australia—call 1300 789 978 for professional support and advice for men (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • Hummingbird House - Hummingbird House Brisbane is a medically supported home away from home for Queensland families loving and caring for a child with a life-limiting condition. 

Related resources


Last updated 19 Aug 2022